ASIA/SYRIA - The UN: Child soldiers among the rebels, "a sign of the ongoing tragedy" says a Jesuit

Damascus (Agenzia Fides) - The United Nations has received information of the presence of child soldiers in the ranks of the free Syrian Army rebels, fighting President Bashar al-Assad. This was reported by the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, without providing further details and remembering that "the international conventions ban the use of soldiers under the age of 16".
Asked by Fides, Fr. Paul Dall'Oglio, a Jesuit of the Monastery of Deir Mar Musa, said from Damascus: "The news, unfortunately, does not astonish me: the presence of teenagers who take part in the fighting is a notorious phenomenon and is part of the tragedy we are experiencing. Moreover, throughout this terrible year, there have been cases of children and adolescents arrested, tortured and killed. The political mobilization of youth and adolescents, in their vehemence and irresponsibility, was and is a present element in the popular uprising. Their militarization, however, is due to the ongoing civil conflict in some areas. Resorting to arms and violence drowns any possibility of dialogue and mediation, supported by most of the Syrian people". Dall'Oglio recalls that "the Syrian Christians, despite their fears, support unity and reconciliation of the Syrian people".
In this phase, the Jesuit launches an appeal: "We demand that the UN endeavors to protect children and prevent Syrian adolescents to arm themselves. We call on the forces to not arm children. We hope that a greater UN responsibility on the ground, suggested by Kofi Annan, will mean greater protection for all youth and Syrian childhood". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 27/3/2012)

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